By Naini Setalvad
Nature’s perfect food has multiple uses, says Naini Setalvad
Coconut is a near perfect food, as it contains almost all the essential nutrients needed by the human body. Many people of diverse cultures and languages revere it as a valuable source of food and medicine. It holds a high place in religious ceremonies. According to Hindu mythology, when Lord Vishnu, the protector of the universe, came down to earth, he brought with him the karpagavalli or the coconut tree, which means giver of health, energy, strength, tranquility, longevity, and peace. The coconut – the seed of a palm tree that grows mainly in tropical coastal areas, yields numerous food and non-food products.
In my home, coconut is sprinkled on everything from dals to vegetables. It also makes wonderful salads and chutneys. Dosas and idlis go well with coconut chutney, while appams and the coconut milk stew are heavenly. Coastal communities such as Kerala, Goa, Mangalore or Malwan in Maharasthra, virtually cannot prepare anything without its fair share of coconut, either in the form of coconut milk, ground into paste, or best of all, dry-fried to a rich dark brown. No religious ceremony takes place without the coconut. With the festive months ahead, my mouth is already watering in anticipation of the modaks made with coconut and jaggery.
Coconut water is well known for its nutritive qualities. The other edible part of the coconut, which is relished by nearly everyone, is the pure white and delicious coconut meat. South Indians are generally thought of as intelligent, with flawless skins and long hair. This could be due to the consumption of coconut in their daily diet. So, what is in the coconut that makes it so nutritious? The key nutrient in coconut is the healthy fat. Yes, it does contain the dreaded saturated fat, but a little bit of it consumed regularly is not harmful.
Coconut oil is essentially cholesterol-free, and actually helps to lower it. The fat absorbs certain essential vitamins, and allows them to enrich the hair, skin and eyes, which in turn enriches your beauty. When people go on crash diets, cutting out healthy fats, especially saturated fats, the hair quality worsens, and it starts to fall. The skin becomes sallow, and there are early signs of ageing. The oil in the coconut is also known to improve thyroid function, as healthy fats are required for regulating hormone functions.
Coconut is extremely rich in fibre, which makes it excellent for digestion. It helps to regulate the functions of the digestive tract, and is a cure for constipation as well.
Coconut is known to control sugar levels and curb sweet cravings. It is high in calories and has antifungal properties as well. Regular consumption has a healing effect on the body. Coconut is also known to increase the metabolic rate, thus making it instrumental in weight loss.
It is rich in saturated fats. Therefore, it should be consumed in moderation. Coconut oil is a great cooking medium, while the coconut meat lends fragrance and texture to the meal.
Like in everything else, excess consumption of coconut is bad for the body. A small quantity of coconut daily is fine, especially if you are underweight or undernourished.
Dry coconut (copra) podi
1/4 cup chana dal (split bengal gram)
1/4 cup urad dal (split black gram)
1/4 cup grated dry coconut (copra)
1 tsp coconut oil or any other refined oil
7 to 8 dry whole dry Kashmiri red chillies, broken into pieces
1/2 tsp asafoetida (hing)
1/2 tbsp grated jaggery (gur)
1 tbsp tamarind (imli)
7 to 8 curry leaves (kadipatta)
salt to taste
1. Combine the chana dal, urad dal, and coconut, in a pan, and dry roast on a slow flame until it releases a pleasant aroma, while stirring continuously (approx. 10 to 12 minutes). Remove and keep aside.
2. Heat the oil in the same pan, add the red chillies and asafoetida, and sauté for few seconds.Remove and keep aside.
3.Combine all the ingredients except the salt and blend in a mixer to a fine powder.
4.Add the salt and mix well.
5.Store it in an airtight container, and use as required.
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